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Gardening: Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly Weed Picture

Not satisfied with the occasional, chance appearance of butterflies, many gardeners are creating butterfly gardens –with plants specially chosen to invite them into the landscape. The mixture of flowers and the fluttering movement of colorful butterflies are one of nature’s most enchanting combinations. Landscape plants for butterfly gardening will be featured at the Annual Ornamental & Perennial Seminar & Sale on October 10 at Carbide Park in La Marque. Photo Credit: Texas Cooperative Extension -Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly Weed

Gardening: Oct. 10 Plant Sale & Seminar To Feature Butterfly Gardening - Butterflies Bring Color, Motion to Garden

by Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture
October 2, 2004

Not satisfied with the occasional, chance appearance of butterflies, many gardeners are creating butterfly gardens –with plants specially chosen to invite them into the landscape.

Butterfly gardens strive to attract, welcome and nurture these fascinating and lovely insects that add so much to the pleasures of gardening. And with their abundance of bright, colorful flowers, these gardens also can contribute to the beauty of the overall landscape.

This is understandable, since the mixture of flowers and the fluttering movement of colorful butterflies are one of nature’s most enchanting combinations. The fall season is the ideal time to establish plants in your landscape.

In the complete butterfly garden, these plants are planted with the hope that butterflies will lay eggs on them and that they will be consumed by caterpillars. This is one of the few situations I can think of where a gardener actually hopes a plant will be eaten by caterpillars.

Needless to say, the use of pesticides is not permitted in areas dedicated to butterfly gardens. Remember that the caterpillars are picky about what plant they will feed on and will feed specifically on the larval food plants you provide for them. You generally do not need to be concerned that they will attack and damage other plants in your landscape–unless you have larval food plants planted in other locations.

Even if you do not have plants that can serve as a food source for the larval or caterpillar stage, there is a wide array of garden flowers are attractive to adult butterflies. The greater the diversity in types of flowers you include in your butterfly garden, the better the chance you have of attracting adult butteries. The adult butterflies feed primarily on nectar from flowers.

Don’t be disappointed if at first you don’t see butterflies flocking to your yard in droves. After all, your garden is an invitation, not a command performance. The more plants you put in, and the longer you stick with it, the more likely you are to see butterflies.

After a while, spotting a butterfly will be more common. And the first time you find caterpillars on your milkweed, parsley or passion vine, the excitement will make it all worthwhile.

Don’t forget to include your children and grandchildren in the enjoyment of the butterfly garden. Kids are delighted by the changing stages in a butterfly’s life cycle, and it is a great way for them to learn more about nature. Although some of the butterfly caterpillars, such as Gulf fritillary larvae, appear to be heavily armed with spines, none are able to sting.

Whether the mission is just a beautiful garden or a beautiful garden with an emphasis on attracting butterflies, where can you obtain plants that do well in our Upper Gulf Coast growing environment? A good starting place is the upcoming Annual Ornamental & Perennial Seminar & Sale, sponsored by the Galveston County Master Gardeners.

This year’s seminar and sale will be conducted on Sunday, October 10, at the Wayne Johnson Community Center in Carbide Park at 4102 FM 519 in La Marque. The activities will begin on Sunday, October 10, at 8:00 a.m. when Heidi Sheesley of TreeSearch Farms Nursery will present a slide seminar entitled "Timeless Treasures & Dazzling Discoveries." She will discuss proven perennials for this area and guidelines for growing them. The plant sale itself will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

More than 150 types of perennials, vines, ornamental grasses and flowering shrubs will be available including many hard-to-find varieties. Featured plants will include Yellow Mussaenda, Mexican Lobelia, Sunrise Tecoma, Mickey Mouse Taro, Flowering Verbena and Tea Bush.

Among the broad selection of hard-to-get landscaping beauties usually offered at this annual sale will also be many enticing butterfly and hummingbird plants. These hard-to-find butterfly plants are not only gorgeous additions to our yards, but they will also delight both adults and children with the magnificent wildlife they will attract.

Certain flowers seem to be especially irresistible to butterflies. Some of the best are butterfly weed, coneflower, butterfly bush, lantana, pentas and salvias. All of these plants will be available at the plant sale.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, we cannot hope to keep up with the Opah Winfreys when it comes to bonus offerings, we nevertheless will provide a special bonus to our shoppers this year. The Master Gardeners will be offering their informative, colorful and easy-to-understand booklet–The Butterflies of Galveston County–free-of-charge with a minimum total purchase or for sale for a modest price with other purchases or no purchases. This award-winning booklet includes information on the diverse variety of butterflies that occur here, what plants they thrive on, and how to landscape for them. Garden designs and information about our public butterfly gardens and museums are also included.

Master Gardeners will be available to assist with any questions. For additional information, contact the Extension Office at 281-534-3413, ext. 6 or visit my website listed below. Proceeds from the sale will be used toward development and maintenance of the Extension Horticulture Demonstration Garden at the County Extension Office at 5115 Highway 3 in Dickinson. The garden is open daily to the general public.

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Gardening: September’s Garden Calendar Includes Fall Pecan Field Day - September 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Ornamental Grasses - September 8, 2004 article

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